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Film / I ♡ Huckabees

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"How am I not myself?"

I ♥ Huckabees (usually pronounced "I Heart Huckabees") is a 2004 comedy-drama film directed by David O. Russell and written by Jeff Baena.

The life of Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) has been increasingly stressful. His job, at an environmental non-profit, has been increasingly difficult due to encroachment from both suburban sprawl and corporate drone Brad Stand (Jude Law) trying to take over his coalition. Also, he keeps running into an African doorman, and it seems all too coincidental. Albert decides to look for help on the matter.

He ends up turning to Jaffe & Jaffe, an existential/surrealist investigative agency headed by the sensible Vivian (Lily Tomlin) and her spacey husband Bernard (Dustin Hoffman). What begins as a simple investigation into Albert's case becomes a cerebral, madcap romp that changes Albert, Brad, a fireman called Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg) with a distaste for petroleum products, Brad's girlfriend and the face of Huckabees, Dawn (Naomi Watts), a nihilistic rival detective named Caterine (Isabelle Huppert), and the entire Huckabees corporation.

This movie has examples of:

  • Heart Symbol: It's in the title I ♥ Huckabees, and it's the slogan of the Huckabees company.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: To help with "the process," Vivian and Bernard assign an "Other": another client of theirs to help ease and empathize with the process. Albert's is firefighter Tommy Corn.
  • Identity Breakdown: Part of the central premise of the film. The main characters are "existential detectives" who help people when they have these kinds of identity crises. The plot kicks off when a man is faced with the Armor-Piercing Question "How am I not myself?", which sends him spiraling and leads him to call the detectives to help him.
  • Imagine Spot: The relaxation technique Bernard tries to teach Albert. It's not always relaxing, though.
  • Internal Reformist: Brad attempts to work the system, saving the marshlands by giving the woods over to the developers.
  • Lucky Charms Title: The film is titled I ♥ Huckabees, with no official way to pronounce it. Russell was surprised by how quickly and easily everyone settled on calling it "I Heart Huckabees."
  • Opposed Mentors: Philosophically opposed existential detectives (who both served as Trickster Mentors for their clients) who may or may not have actually been working together, but would never admit it.
  • Precision F-Strike: Dawn and her hilariously vicious whisper of "Fuckabees," causing panic from those who hear her.
  • Running Gag: The Shania Twain tuna story. Subverted later when Vivian and Bernard point out how often Brad uses this story for humor, which literally sickens Brad.
  • Sex Sells: In-universe. Dawn is posing in bathing suits for Huckabees advertisements.
  • Underdressed for the Occasion: When Albert tries to dine without a jacket, the restaurant loans him one. He finds a significant business card in the pocket of the loaner.

How am I not myself?